Unio Gallery


Well-known member
Dec 11, 2004
These photographs and videos are intended to encourage interest in the freshwater pearly mussels (Unionoida) and promote the conservation of endangered species. Students, teachers and biologists are welcome to use the images for non-commercial educational purposes (see use policy). Winter raccoon kills on the Verdigris River, Kansas

The rivers of North America are home to nearly 300 species of native freshwater pearly mussels. However, the destruction of river habitats by dams, channelization, erosion and pollution has left many of these amazing mollusks on the brink of extinction. Presently 71 native mussels are on the U.S. endangered species list. Mussels don't have a glamorous public image like pandas or tigers, yet the more we learn more about them the more remarkable they seem.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of native mussels is their symbiosis with fish. Females release tiny larvae called glochidia. The glochidia must attach to the gills or fins of particular species of fish, where they remain for several days or weeks as they metamorphose into juvenile mussels. Mussels have evolved incredible devices to lure fishes and ensure that the glochidia become attached. The photos and videos displayed on the following pages illustrate some of these remarkable adaptations.
Click on the photos to link to the image pages.
Go to the link to click on the photos. They will amze you


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This one is really great! It shows some of the subterfuges that mussels use to attract fish.
<H3 class=post-title>Mussel shows

As adults, freshwater mussels sit in the mud and that's about it. It's not a bad life, I suppose, for a mollusc. (It's not a bad life for a human, now I come to think of it.) But there is a problem with a sedentary existence. If no one moves anywhere, the place is going to get overcrowded very quickly. So even stick-in-the-mud bivalves have to disperse.

As adults aren't going to move much, dispersal is down to the larval stages. Most freshwater mussels have a specialised larva called a glochidium that moves around by hitching a ride on a fish. But glochidia don't swim very well, so to increase the chances of the larvae getting a lift, the adult mussels lure fish closer ...

How does a bivalve entice a fish? The same way that a plant brings in a pollinator. It resembles something the fish wants?either food or a mate. And this is where it gets weird.

Mussel shells look like mussel shells. They're stuck with that. But the mantle?the folds of tissue that surround the animal's body­?can vary in colour and shape. Mussels can also flap the mantle to mimic the movements of another fish or wriggle it like a worm. What fish could resist? And when it comes closer, the glochidia latch on and hitch a ride.

So how good is this mimicry? That was Lampsilis reevesiana looking so much like a small fish in trouble that the predators are heading in for a good feed. If you're not convinced, here's an animated gif. Videos are available here.

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There is more, but you should go visit the site.